INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Marty Hurney may have been to the NFL Combine as the Panthers General Manager before, but his time here this year is different.
Standing in a hallway of his hotel, with other general managers passing through as well, Hurney is quick to smile when asked if he ever could have imagined he’d be back here with the Panthers after they let him go in 2012.
“Never,” said Hurney between laughs. “These things don’t happen.”
He knows that despite being in very familiar territory, Hurney was the Panthers general manager from 2002-2012 and their interim general manager last year, stepping back into the same role for the same team is unlikely and rare.
“I was just talking to somebody this afternoon and they said I think it’s t he first that somebody not only has left and come back, but come back to the same organization. And I’m so fortunate. I love the organization and love the people in it,” Hurney explained.
But his rise back to the top of the Panthers franchise was an uphill battle, with plenty of road blocks.
Three weeks ago, on the first Friday in February, Hurney found out his ex-wife filed a harassment complaint against him.
“I think initially you go into shock a little bit when something is so unexpected, but then just like anything you deal with, you take it step by step,” Hurney said.
Jeannie Hurney dropped the claims three days later, but the NFL still had to launch and investigation and the Panthers placed their then-interim general manager on paid leave.
“You have to rely on faith and that everything happens for a reason. We got through it, and I appreciate everyone that was a part of it,” he said.
He got the call that he was cleared after the NFL found no evidence to support the dropped claims, and was at the stadium half an hour later in meetings to prepare for the NFL combine and NFL draft.
“When you’re away for five years like I was, you learn that the people are the number one thing that you miss. Just being able to be back, and work with those guys and work towards the common goal, I can’t tell you how fortunate I am,” Hurney said.
He was named the Panthers general manager last Wednesday, and although his NFL investigation wrapped up quickly, the league’s investigation into Jerry Richardson continues.
“It’s not in my nature (to worry about the outcome). I focus on what I can control and what my job is, so right now our attention is on free agency, the draft and how to get better,” Hurney said.
His time away from the team also gave him plenty of time to reflect on what he could have done better the first time around. Hurney doesn’t spend much time focusing on the negatives now, but instead turns those experiences into little pieces of a bigger plan.
“The lesson is, just work hard, and take every day at a time. That’s what I tell my kids. Take every day at a time, do what’s right,do everything that you can do to be the best you can be, and things are going to happen. You can’t really control the future other than how you approach every day,” Hurney said.
So while standing back in Indianapolis and preparing for another NFL Combine with the Panthers feels a little like the Twilight Zone, Hurney is happy it’s his new reality and ready to write a different ending.
“It’s the keep pounding thing, and have faith. And I think we’re going to be fine. We have a very good feeling of what we need to do over the next three months,” Hurney said.